Wasi Shah takes charge as Minister of State for Tourism and PTDC Chairman
ISLAMABAD: Sometimes, an interim government can achieve what a permanent one might struggle to. In a remarkable turn of events, the renowned Poet, Anchor, and Scriptwriter, Wasi Shah, has assumed office as the Minister of State for Tourism and Chairman of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC). Since taking office, Shah has exhibited unwavering dedication to harness the potential of Pakistan’s tourism industry, says a Press release.
Today, Minister of State for Tourism and PTDC Chairman, Wasi Shah, presided over a pivotal meeting held at the PTDC Head Office. The focus of the meeting was to discuss proposals aimed at enhancing the training and welfare of porters within the mountaineering community.
During the meeting, Minister Wasi Shah expressed heartfelt condolences for the untimely passing of Mr. Muhammad Hassan, a porter who tragically lost his life while scaling K2, the world’s second-largest mountain. Responding to this tragedy, he has directed the authorities to establish a Training Centre/Institute dedicated to equipping both climbers and porters with essential skills.
Aftab ur Rehman Rana, Managing Director of PTDC, provided a comprehensive brief about the incident, while Abu Zafar, President of the Alpine Club, shed light on various aspects of mountaineering. The Investigation Committee also outlined the heroic rescue efforts undertaken during the incident.
Minister Wasi Shah emphasized the urgent need to bridge gaps in existing safety regulations and work towards providing insurance coverage of Rs. 3 million for porters and climbers in case of unfortunate fatalities. He also voiced concerns about the lack of a formal institution dedicated to porter training, highlighting their vital role in navigating perilous terrain and conditions.
As a solution, he directed the introduction of formal documentation, penalties, and certifications for tour operators, alongside provisions for training and short courses for guides and porters. These efforts underscore the Ministry of Tourism and PTDC’s commitment to ensuring the safety, training, and welfare of those integral to Pakistan’s mountaineering pursuits.
In a significant announcement, Minister Wasi Shah revealed plans to establish a Center of Excellence for Mountain Tourism and Adventure Training at Baltistan University. An MOU is expected to be signed between PTDC and Baltistan University to formalize this initiative. The center will host regular training courses conducted by national and international experts to enhance the capabilities of high-altitude porters, mountain guides, tour operators, and support staff. Additionally, awareness sessions on workplace safety and protocol will be organized.
Recognizing the need for updated mountaineering and trekking regulations, Minister Wasi Shah proposed the formation of a National Committee, comprising PTDC members and representatives from the Gilgit-Baltistan Government. This committee will review existing rules and regulations, identify operational gaps, and design awareness and training workshops to enhance safety for mountaineering activities.
The Minister also suggested an increase in royalty fees for K-2 permits, from $1700 USD to $5000 USD per person, with a portion dedicated to the training and capacity building of porters and mountain guides. He further proposed the introduction of four